BMCR 2003.03.04

Gli Stationarii in Età Imperiale. Serta Antiqua et Mediaevalia III

, , , , , , Serta antiqua et mediaevalia.. V. 8: Scienze documentaire. Rome: G. Bretschneider, 1997-2006. volumes 1-6 : illustrations ; 26 cm.. ISBN 8876891358. EUR 103.29.

Lucernoni provides a thorough study of all attested stationarii in the Roman Empire. After an introduction surveying previous scholarship, the book is divided into two main parts: a thematic study of the stationarii (“Parte prima: Gli stationarii”) and a prosopographical list of individuals (“Parte seconda: Prosopografia degli stationarii”). The themes discussed in Part 1 are: chronology and geographical distribution, onomastics, service, careers, family and social relations, and religion (there is little to say about the last two of these). The evidence begins in the 2nd century AD and ends in the 7th or 8th century; most is 2nd- to 4th-century. It comes mainly from inscriptions (commonly from Africa and Asia), ostraca and papyri, but there is also some literary material, Christian martyr-acts and legal texts.

Stationarii clearly had a variety of functions according to time and place. Some of the previous suggestions which Lucernoni summarizes in the introduction include: guarding provincial governors, protection of the cursus publicus and highways, catching and detaining criminals and fugitive slaves, and protection of local populations from brigands.

Part 1 begins by surveying stationarii by period and provenance (“Cronologia e distribuzione geografica”) and by name (“Onomastica”). Only one has his place of origin specifically stated in an inscription (no.40): a stationarius at Ephesus whose home was in Liguria. The section on service (“Servizio”) points out the link between stationarii and stationes, but Lucernoni notes that the latter term is ambiguous, since it can be a military post with policing functions or an encampment guarding a mine or imperial estate. At Bovianum and Saepinum the stationarii had to deal with fugitive slaves and cattle-rustling associated with itinerant herdsmen (no.35); in a martyr-act from Thrace, a stationarius civitatis was responsible for sealing up the doors of a church (no.79). Stationarii were also involved in the collection of taxes and duties, although their title is not normally associated with the sort of customs post called a statio. There are signs of stationarii exceeding their powers: warnings in various legal texts, and an intriguing epitaph for a man “killed by the stationarii” (no.75). The section on careers (“Carriera”) shows that stationarii could be legionaries, praetorians, members of the urban cohorts, or equites singulares; these all seem to be distributed over a variety of provinces. It appears that a soldier was always assigned to a regular unit before becoming a stationarius. The term usually stands by itself, but someone could be stationarius of a province (no.77: stationarius provinciae Macedoniae) or a city (no.40: stationarius Ephesi).

In Part 2, each entry in the prosopography consists of bibliography, date, provenance, name of the stationarius and full title, with notes describing the source. These could have been made easier to use by two additions for which plenty of blank space is available: cross-references to discussions of the entries in Part 1, and full (or at least fuller) texts of inscriptions and papyri. The prosopography has 130 entries, but only 40 stationarii are known by name. Much of the evidence is from collections of ostraca from Mons Claudianus in Egypt (nos.3-29) and Gholaia in Africa Proconsularis (nos.60-67); these produce two substantial series of entries for “anonimi”.

The exact form of the word stationarius used in each case is given in Part 2, but not in the earlier discussion in Part 1; thus the man described in Part 1 on p.46 as ” praetorius e stationarius H[ebae?]” proves in Part 2 (no.49) to be miles pret(orius) sta(tionarius) H[ebae?]. Since this is very different from how other praetorian stationarii are labelled, I wonder if the abbreviated word might really be sta(tionis) or something similar. On the other hand, in an inscription not discussed by Lucernoni, from Intercisa in Pannonia (RIU 5.1991 = CIJ 1.677), the usually accepted expansion is Cosmius pr(aepositus) sta(tionis) Spondill., i.e. almost the same letters interpreted completely differently. Fuller understanding of the term stationarius might have been easier to achieve if the book’s scope had been expanded to include a thorough study of statio as well. This word does not usually have a military context, but there are, as noted above, some examples of clearly military usage, e.g. AE 1959.330, AE 1973.75, CIL 12.144, CIL 13.6440, CIL 14.125, ILAfr 269. A search of Manfred Clauss’s Epigraphik-Datenbank, from which the above list was derived, also produced L(ucio) Bantio Celso stat(ionario) Secundus l(ibertus) de suo from Segodunum in Aquitania (CIL 13.1549), which Lucernoni does not include. Perhaps she disagrees about the expansion of the abbreviation STAT. here, and there are sure to be some ambiguous cases; a parallel study of statio and stationarius might have highlighted these. The unexplained CIL 3.10308 = Lucernoni no.127 [……]limus stat(ionarius) […] | [p]ub(lici) (Lucernoni does not mention the last word) could also refer to a statio rather than a stationarius, perhaps associated with the por(torium) pub(licum).

A brief conclusion summarizes the main points which Lucernoni has made. She believes there is no sign of a chronological change in the profiles of stationarii. They are attested in nearly every province. They had a medium-low level role in the military and bureaucratic hierarchy. General functions assigned to them include: protection of movement of goods and people; collection of taxes and duties; the arrest, interrogation and custody of those wanted by the authorities. They also had occasional duties in the administration of justice, conscription of recruits, and requisitioning. Many of their tasks clearly tempted them to go beyond their legal powers. Lucernoni ends by citing St Augustine: the eye of the stationarius is like the eye of God, from which no-one can escape.

Other military titles such as beneficiarius and frumentarius have received in-depth investigations, and it is very convenient to have all the evidence for stationarii collected and analysed as well. However, a complication is created by the fact that stationarius was not only a military title. The Tyrian stationarii at Rome and Puteoli (Lucernoni no.36) formed a trading organization with no military connections at all, and L. Iulius Bassus, stationarius stationis Noricorum (no.134), was presumably also some sort of agent at Rome. There were also slave stationarii in Spain (no.2), and an imperial slave is described as a stationarius at Rome (no.41). Lucernoni is of course well aware of this (pp.40-1), but they are included in the Part 2 prosopography with the military figures, and a casual reader might not spot the difference; the Part 2 prosopographical entry for no.36 does not explain the nature of the inscription and is not cross-referenced to the earlier discussion in Part 1 where it is explained. A separate ‘civilian’ section would have avoided confusion. The use of the term stationarius miles in some texts shows that the Romans themselves were aware of the terminological difficulty.

Despite the reservations expressed here, the book will clearly become the first point of reference for anyone seeking information about the various sorts of stationarii, and Lucernoni’s careful compilation and analysis of the evidence is very much to be welcomed, even if it leaves some questions unresolved.